JONI MITCHELL -- Hits and Misses (Reprise)

Few songwriters receive the amount of respect that Joni Mitchell has over the years. Her songs have been covered countless times by a number of artists, and she has been quite successful on her own as well. The one thing she hasn't done--until now--is release a greatest hits package. Reprise came up with a great idea for the new compilation. They split it into two individually available CDs - Hits and Misses. The songs on the two CDs encompass Mitchell's entire career. A few of the tracks sound dated (such as "The Circle Game" or "California"), but considering the range of material included, the songs have held up very well.

As you would expect, Hits covers the singles and her more commercial tunes. It gets off to a good start with the exuberant "Chelsea Morning" and the single, "Big Yellow Taxi". Up next is Mitchell's sparse version of "Woodstock". Her eclectic arrangement is significantly different from what Crosby Stills Nash & Young did with the song. Hits also includes her next two singles, "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" and the smash from her Court and Spark album, "Help Me". One of the best songs on Hits is the cool, laid back "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody". The song features some excellent bass work from her 'on-again off-again' beau, Larry Klein. Hits wraps up with "Come in From the Cold", and Mitchell's original version of the Judy Collins single, "Both Sides, Now".

For me, Misses was definitely the better of the two CDs. The songs are adventurous and more experimental that those on Hits. One of her most daring and controversial albums was Mingus, named in homage to bassist Charles Mingus. Mitchell received an invitation to collaborate with the legendary jazz musician shortly before he died, and composed lyrics to some of the last melodies Mingus wrote. The album is represented here by the spooky track "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey".

There are several other outstanding tracks on Misses. The frequently covered "A Case of You" (from her classic album, Blue), "The Beat of Black Wings" (from the highly underrated Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm), "Sex Kills" (from the Grammy-winning Turbulent Indigo) and the title track from "Hejira" are just a few of the many highlights. These CDs are an excellent primer for people wanting to explore Mitchell's music without having to go out and buy all of her albums, and makes an excellent collection for seasoned fans as well.

© 1996 Steve Marshall